A modern twist on historic hedge schools

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THE social restrictions affecting Ireland and Irish communities around the world have led to a resurrection of the Hedge School—with a modern twist.

The Trailblazery programme is hosting an autumn series of online events aimed at bringing the spirit of hedge schools to a global audience and helping participants ‘understand and make sense of the new Covid reality.’

With Zoom talks and discussions throughout September and October, the opportunity to share with others in a way that draws from Irish tradition has encouraged many people to form a new link through the endeavour.

The autumn series of events features a wide range of subjects and is hosted by Patricia McCabe, an activist of the Navajo Nation with her own links to Ireland, author Manchán Magan, who explores the Irish language and what it shows us about Irish people, and Alastair McIntosh, the Scottish academic, environmentalist and poet. Music also features heavily in the hedge school events, with Hedge School Musical Director Colm Mac Con Iomaire of The Frames, performance artist and musician Ceara Conway and Luke Concannon, who found fame with Nizlopi, all joining.

Explaining their motivation and how they hope their efforts can have an impact in an uncertain time, organisers looked to the needs for connections with others as well as our past.

“Hedge School is a virtual homeschool rooted in Ireland that invites people around the world on a collective learning experience to find our shared humanity and resource our possibility as global citizens,” they said. “Back in the 1700s, Irish education was outlawed and the process of learning took to the land. Hedge Schools gathered wherever people could find shelter; along hedgerows, fields, mountains, by rivers and under the stars. Out at these wild edges, our culture was kept alive.

“We decided to launch a Hedge School movement for our times in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown and the crucible moment it offers to our shared humanity.

“As restrictions in social and physical connection were enforced we radically revived the Irish Hedge School movement as a place of shelter for people around the world. Our mission is to gather people to reflect on the important questions facing us today as ancestors-in-training.

“Hedge School taps into a universal human need for authentic connection and belonging – an Irish drumbeat with a global resonance.”

Online classes not only provide participants with the chance to connect with others and with wider Irish culture and history, it also gives them to chance to gather real knowledge and learning. Given the constraints facing many at this time, organisers at The Trailblazery have introduced scholarships to ensure that no-one is left out of the Hedge School due to costs.

“We believe that HedgeSchool should be available to people from all walks of life especially in our current circumstances so we have created a range of sliding scale payment options including full and partial scholarships for people who needs support,” they explained. “We appreciate your support in these times so please pay what ever feels appropriate to your circumstances. Thank you for walking this path with us. Registration Fees range from €250 to Full Scholarship.”

You can find out more by visiting: www.thetrailblazery.com/hedge-school

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